I, Anna Csillag

“There on the large in-folio page was a picture of a woman, somewhat brawny and plump of shape, with a face that hinted at vigour and experience. An enormous sheepskin of hair streamed from that lady’s head, and tumbled heavily down her back, the ends of its thick locks trailing on the ground. This was some improbable prank of nature — a voluminous and abundant cloak spun from the roots of her hair; and it was hard to imagine that its weight was not causing her intense pain, that it would not paralyse her head, which it made enormous. But the owner of that magnificence appeared to wear it with pride, and the text printed alongside in heavy type told the story of that miracle, beginning with the words: ‘I, Anna Csillag, born in Karlovice in Moravia, had a meagre growth of hair...’ It was a long story, similar in construction to the story of Job. Anna Csillag’s meagre growth had been caused by a decree of Providence. The whole village pitied her for this affliction. They forgave her on account of her irreproachable life, notwithstanding that she could not have been entirely blameless. And, lo and behold, as the result of their fervent prayers, the curse was lifted from her head. Anna Csillag attained the grace of enlightenment — she received signs and instructions, and she prepared a specific, a wonderful medicine, which restored fertility to her head. Her hair began to sprout, and, as if that were not enough, her husband, brothers and cousins too became ergotised in the succeeding days with huge black pelts of beards. On the opposite page was a picture of Anna Csillag six weeks after the revelation of her formula, surrounded by her brothers, brothers-in-law and nephews — mustachioed men with beards falling below their waists — and one could only look in admiration at that veritable explosion of unfalsified, bear-like masculinity. Anna Csillag delighted the whole village — upon which a veritable benediction flowed in the form of colossal crops of wavy hair and manes, and its inhabitants swept the ground with their beards, as broad as brooms. Anna Csillag became the apostle of the hirsute. And, having delighted her native town, she now wanted to delight the whole world, which she invited, encouraged and begged to accept as its salvation her divine gift — that wondrous medicine, of which she alone knew the secret.”

Bruno Schulz: The Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass. The Book

Ja, Anna Csillag, z długiemi włosami,
Zawsze ta sama, słodko uśmiechnięta,
Od lat trzydziestu – pomiędzy szpaltami
Stoję w gazetach twoich niby święta.
Jak lilję trzymam gałązkę z gwiazdami,
Czas mej anielskiej urody nie zmienia:
Puszysty włosów rozpuszczony dywan
Szumną kaskadą do stóp moich spływa,
Do bosych stóp bogini uwłosienia.

Ja, Anna Csillag, przez tych lat trzydzieści
Nie znałam smutku, nie znałam boleści,
A co się z tobą działo, o mój synu,
Że patrzysz na mnie – i łzy tobie płyną?

Mnie, Annie Csillag, nawet w one lata,
Gdy krwią twych braci spłynęło pół świata,
I krew – czernidło drukarskie załała,
I śmierć z sąsiednich szpalt na mnie wołała, –

Ani jeden nie posiwiał włos,
Ani jeden nie spadł z głowy włos.

O Anno Csillag, gazetowy świadku
Naszych cielęcych, obumarłych dni!
Chodzę po świecie i zbieram śmiecie,
Sam wkrótce będę po sobie pamiątką.

I będę pisał jeszcze głupsze wiersze
À la recherche,
À la recherche
Du temps perdu.
I, Anna Csillag, with my long hair
and with the same, never fading smile
have stood for thirty years between the columns
of your newspaper just like a saint.
I hold a bunch of lily-shaped stars,
time does not change my angelic beauty.
The cascade of my dissolved long hair
flows down as long as my feet
as if I were the goddess of hairiness.

I, Anna Csillag for thirty long years
have not felt sorrow and knew no pain.
But what happened to you, my son?
When you look at me, I see tears in your eyes.

Oh, Annie Csillag, to me during these years
while the blood of your brothers has flooded
the world and painted the printer’s ink red
and death has howled from these columns –

not a single hair has gone gray
and not one has fallen from my head.

Oh, Annie Csillag, you holy image
of the newsprint of our bygone childhood!
I’m just walking along, collecting the garbage,
while becoming memory even to myself,

and starting to write even sillier poems
à la recherche
à la recherche
du temps perdu.

Józef Wittlin: À la recherche du temps perdu (1933)

I Annie Csilag rosły, rosły włosy
And the hair of Anna Csillag kept growing and growing.

Czesław Miłosz, Traktat poetycki (1957)

“Seht, seht, wer bricht sich Bahn? Ein Weib, dessen Haar länger ist als sie selbst, ein Weib also, das Grund hat, seine Persönlichkeit zu betonen; sie ruft! Ich, Anna…”

“Look, look, who is breaking a path? A woman whose hair is longer than herself, a woman who has therefore all reason to emphasize her personality and who cries: I, Anna…”

Karl Kraus: Die Welt der Plakate (1909)

“Как всегда, мы сели. Кошка, тряся стул, лизала у себя под хвостиком. Отец шуршал страницами. Маман, посмеиваясь, пришивала кружево к штанам. Я перелистывала книгу. Анна Чилляг, волосастая, шагала и несла перед собой цветок. Поль Крюгер улыбался. Это — гостьи принесли.”

“As always, we sat down. The cat, shaking the chair, was licking herself beneath her tail. Father was rustling the pages of the newspaper. Mother was smiling and sewing lace to the pants. I leafed through the book. Long-haired Anna Csillag stepped forward, holding a flower in front of her. Paul Kruger was smiling. The book was brought by guests.”

Leonid Dobichin: Город Эн. Портрет (1935)

Országos Hírlap, 19. December 1898. Editor-in-chief: Kálmán Mikszáth

“After ‘I, Anna Csillag’ it is surely Matlekovits whose name occurs in the newspapers even more often than that of Jenő Zichy. He is the pampered favorite of the press.”

Kálmán Mikszáth: Hogy fogy Matlekovits? [How popular is Matlekovits?] (1885)

“One could write much more about this. And even if those ‘hundreds of appreciating letters’ referred to in every article of Jenő Rákosi signify nothing more than those in the advertisement of Anna Csillag, it would be a mistake to deny that many people think about this thing like Jenő Rákosi does.”

Miksa Fenyő, Irodalmi vita [Literary debate] (Nyugat, 1915)

“And in those bygone but unforgettable years, when men used to carefully examine women like some kind of a wonderful plant, they attributed great importance to the hair of Mária. It was obvious that she will grow it as long as that of Anna Csillag – oh, how happy will be the man who once will wash his face in this silken cascade!”

Gyula Krúdy: Aranyidő [Golden times] (Nyugat, 1923)

“You are withering, my old Flegman, like the flower pressed in the book of memories. You do not bring any luck any more, just like the little locks of hair which have lost their magic power, whether they were curled by a Gypsy girl or sent via C.O.D. by Anna Csillag. In 19**, after a May picnic I started to loose hair, and I discovered in the mirror that my nose had grown larger. That was my last May picnic under the oaks of Sóstó, and the only one where I did not bring home a single song, a single woman’s name from. Even the hair elixir of Anna Csillag had no effect on me, albeit I had written for it to Vienna.”

Gyula Krúdy: Az öreg Korányi professzor tanácsa [Advice of old Professor Korányi] (1929)

Source of the illustrations: http://www.brunoschulz.org/csillag.htm

“And the man who painted the signboards, Greiner, had previously been a lamp-lighter in the cabaret Hoelle in the Theater an der Wien. He had a vivid imagination, was a great talker and soon became a bad influence on Hitler. Greiner built all sorts of castles in the air, and Hitler took his schemes very seriously. There was eager competition between them in devising plans, and Hitler would say sometimes that Greiner was a genius like Edison, with unheard-of ideas, but that he was too fickle and needed someone to carry out his ideas. Hitler wanted to unite all these people into an organization following such ideas in coöperative work. Some of them should make drawings, design advertising, paint signboards, while the others should sell these products. But he had other projects as well. At that time there was a picture in all the newspapers of a woman named Anna Csillag, with long hair that reached to the floor, and below her picture was an advertisement, starting with the words, «I, Anna Csillag…» recommending an infallible hair-growing remedy. Hitler thought something of the kind ought to be invented. He admitted that the story of Anna Csillag was an obvious bluff, but he said one could earn plenty of money with it. He proposed to fill old tin cans with paste and sell them to shopkeepers, the paste to be smeared on window-panes to keep them from freezing in winter. It should be sold, he said, in the summer, when it couldn’t be tried out. I told him it wouldn’t work, because the merchants could just say, come back in the winter; we don’t need it now. To this Hitler answered that one must possess a talent for oratory. But I thought oratory alone would be useless.”

Reinhold Hanisch: I was Hitler’s buddy, New Republic, 5-19 April 1939.
Hanisch, who in the 1910s earned his living together with Hitler in Vienna, in the 30s wrote his memories that were published in the United States. When returning to Germany, he was arrested and died in the concentration camp of Buchenwald. [* This is what the Hitler in History Project tells about his death, but see claus’ well-informed comment below.]

Magyar Iparművészet, 1898/9, from here

“Ein Reklameauftrag der Firma Anna Csillag am Kohlmarkt hatte Hitler beinahe um den Verstand gebracht. Diese Geschäftsfrau inserierte in allen Tageszeitungen, Wochen- und Monatsschriften und pries ihre Haarpomade an. Die Reklame zeigte eine Dame mit langem, wallendem Haar, das vom Kopfscheitel bis zu den Fußknöcheln herabreichte und deren Text ständig begann: «Ich, Anna Csillag, mit dem riesenlangen Loreleyhaar, habe nur durch Verwendung der von mir erfundenen Geheimpomade diese Haarpracht erreicht. Jeder, der einen so prächtigen Haarschmuck haben will, schreibe postwendend an Anna Csillag, worauf man gratis und franco einen wundervollen Prospekt mit Beweisen und Dankschreiben erhält.« Hitler war von diesem Auftrag einfach begeistert. »Das nennt man Reklame machen! Propaganda, Propaganda, so lange, bis die Leute glauben, daß dieser Dreck helfen wird«, meinte Hitler. »Anna Csillag ist ein Reklamegenie, und vielleicht morgen schon wird man die neueste Erfindung der Anna Csillag anpreisen: Keine Schädeldecke für den Haarwuchs mehr notwendig! Anna Csillags Haarpomade wirkt sogar auf einer Billardkugel! Keine Angst mehr! Sollten aber mit Hilfe der Pomade weder am Kopf noch auf der Billardkugel Haare wachsen – durch die neueste Erfindung Anna Csillags, durch ihre Haarsamenpillen ist der Erfolg garantiert gesichert!« So spintisierte Hitler fast eine Stunde lang. »Propaganda, Propaganda, so lange, bis daraus ein Glaube wird und man nicht mehr weiß, was Einbildung und was Wirklichkeit ist«, sagte er wörtlich und eilte, ohne Angabe von Gründen, plötzlich davon. Nach zwei Stunden erschien er wieder mit einem Prospekt der Anna Csillag. Er hatte es einfach nicht länger ausgehalten, er mußte ins Geschäft der Auftraggeberin, um das Geheimnis der Pomadenpropaganda studieren zu können.

Vor allem interessierten ihn die Dankbriefe, denn diese müßten doch echt sein, und was mag unter Umständen so ein Dankbrief für eine Salbe, die nicht hilft, gekostet haben! Hitler dachte eine Weile nach, dann sagte er: »Vielleicht ist es ein gutes Geschäft, Dankbriefe für eine Haarpomade zu schreiben.« Ein Dankbrief lockte Hitler ganz besonders an, er stammte mit voller Anschrift aus Wien. Hitler verschwand wieder und hatte das Geheimnis der Dankbriefschreiberin schneller ergründet als ein Detektiv. Die Briefschreiberin war nämlich schon lange verstorben. »Ja, Propaganda, Propaganda! Tote als Zeugen kosten nichts. Nicht mehr als das Abschreiben der Parten am Wiener Zentralfriedhof. Propaganda, richtige Propaganda macht aus Zweiflern Gläubige: Anna Csillag mit dem riesenlangen Loreleyhaar hat den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen. Sie verkauft die Haarpomade, verspricht unter Hinweis auf Dankbriefe den garantierten Erfolg, nur verschweigt sie, das die Haare erst unter der Erde, im Grabe zu wachsen beginnen. Propaganda«, phantasierte Hitler weiter, »was wirst du erst vermögen, wenn du im Dienste einer Idee stehst, um die Menschen glücklich zu machen!« Hitler war total verrückt geworden. Das von mir angefertigte Plakat hat Hitler persönlich zur Firma Csillag gebracht, um wieder im Pomadenheiligtum der Reklame schnuppern zu können.

Die in einigen Hitler-Büchern enthaltene Behauptung, Hitler wollte selbst irgend eine Salbe fabrizieren und nach Art der Csillag-Reklame vertreiben, beruht auf einer irrigen Information. Er behauptete bloß, daß vielleicht jemand noch auf die Idee verfallen könnte, eine Salbe zu erfinden, mit deren Hilfe man Glas unzerbrechlich machen kann. Er wird die Salbe gewiß so sicher anbringen, wie die Csillag ihre Pomade. »Propaganda, nur Propaganda ist notwendig, die Dummen werden nicht alle. Propaganda ist die Grundessenz jeder Religion«, meinte Hitler, »ob Himmel oder Haarpomade, nur der durch die Propaganda gestärkte Glaube bringt den Pfaffen und der Anna Csillag den Segen.«”

“A commission of the Anna Csillag Company in the Kohlmarkt nearly drove Hitler mad. This businesswoman advertised and praised in all newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines her hair-growing cream. The advertisement showed a woman with long, flowing hair that reached to her ankles, and its text invariably began like this: ‘I, Anna Csillag have achieved this enormous Loreley hair through the application of the secret cream invented by me. Whoever desires to have similarly gorgeous hair should write to Anna Csillag and will receive gratis and free of charge a wonderful brochure with evidences and letters of gratitude.’ Hitler was just thrilled by this commission. ‘This is what I call advertisement!’ he told. ‘Propaganda and propaganda, until people will believe that this bullshit will really help them. Anna Csillag is a publicity genius, and perhaps tomorrow we will praise her newest invention: No head skin is necessary to hair growing any more! The cream of Anna Csillag works even on a billiard ball! No more fear! However, should there grow no hair either on the head or on the billiard ball – success is guaranteed by the latest invention of Anna Csillag, the hair root pills.’ Hitler went on with this monologue for hours. “Propaganda and propaganda until it becomes a belief and people cannot tell any more fantasy from reality’, he said literally, and then without giving any reason he suddenly hurried away. After two hours he appeared again, with a brochure of Anna Csillag in the hand. He simply could not endure it longer, he needed to go to the shop of the commissioner, to personally study the mystery of the hair growing creme propaganda.

He was especially interested in the letters of gratitude, for they had to be real, and in the given circumstances a letter of gratitude for a cream that had not helped would have costed much. Hitler thought awhile and then he said: ‘Perhaps it is a good business to write letters of gratitude for a cream.’ One of these letters especially attracted Hitler, because it was published with a full Vienna address. Hitler disappeared again, and he explored the mystery of the letter faster than a detective. In fact, the person writing the letter had been dead for several years. ‘Yes, propaganda, propaganda! A dead witness does not cost anything. No more than copying the tomb inscriptions in the Zentralfriedhof. Propaganda, a good propaganda turns doubters into believers. Anna Csillag with her enormous Loreley hair has hit the nail on its head. She sells the cream, on the basis of the letters of gratitude she guarantees the success, but she conceals that hair will really grow under the earth, in the grave. Propaganda!’ raved next Hitler, ‘what would you be able to if you stood in the service of an idea to make people happy!’ Hitler became completely crazy of this idea. He took personally the advertisement prepared by me to the Csillag company, to breathe once more the air of the hair cream sanctuary.

The idea described in some books on Hitler that he also wanted to produce some cream and to spread it similarly to the Csillag advertisement, is based on a false information. Hitler only said that if someone invented a cream that made glass unbreakable, he could absolutely make it as famous as the cream of Csillag. ‘Propaganda! We only need propaganda. Of stupid people there are always enough. Propaganda is the quintessence of every religion.’ he said. ‘Whether heaven or hair cream, only faith strengthened by propaganda can bring blessing to the priests and to Anna Csillag.”

Josef Greiner: Das Ende des Hitler-Mythos (Vienna, 1947).
Greiner also lived together with Hitler in the 1910s in the men’s pansion of Vienna. His book which, according to its foreword, was written to “psychologically explain the Hitler phenomenon”, was pulped by the Allies right after its publication.

Anna Szałapak: Anna Csillag. Text: Bolesław Leśmian, Bruno Schulz.
Music: Zygmunt Konieczny. From the CD W Trójce (2005)

Photo from the Wojciech Nowicki collection.
Illustration of the article “Anna Csillag” in the
Tygodnik Powszechny.

10 comentarios:

Languagehat dijo...

Fantastic -- a corner of the rug turned up, and a vivid, forgotten piece of the past leaps forth!

A suggestion: Reklameauftrag and its shorter form Auftrag should be rendered "ad(vertisement)"; "commission" makes no sense in this context. Also, "desirous" should be "desires."

Studiolum dijo...

I’m very grateful for the corrections as always. I include them right now, and I thank you in advance for the future ones as well.

Studiolum dijo...

Revisiting the context, are you sure that ‘commission’ is not the right term here? In fact, Greiner speaks about a commission for an advertisement given by the Csillag company to the circle of the modest artists which also included Hitler and which made their daily living on similar commissions.

Languagehat dijo...

Oh, maybe you're right -- I just assumed if he was seeing something physical it was an ad, but in that context, I guess "commission" is correct. Sorry!

Here's another one: "Józef Wittin" should be Józef Wittlin. (I'm in the process of creating a blog entry on this, so I looked him up.)

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you very much! Yes, Wittlin’s name was a lapsus. I correct it right now.

Megkoronáz A.J.P. dijo...

I always find people's obsession with the length of their hair to be shockingly self-absorbed. Of course, in the photograph she probably can't see herself below the shoulders unless she's using a convex mirror.

I'd no idea that Kruger looked like that (I mean the wispy beard and self-made uniform).

Studiolum dijo...

Perhaps this is why she had this photo made: to behold the full length of her hair. As if the act of beholding herself represented on the picture were externalized, and her point of view pushed at a distance which is physically impossible to her, but which permits her to see herself in a way she could never do with that small mirror. In fact, the picture does not simply represent her, but the act of beholding herself (and thus focusing the attention of the spectator on the hair). So when she looked at this picture, she beheld herself beholding herself and thus reliving the experience of that first beholding in a more complete way: narcissism on the square.

Anónimo dijo...

My Polish is almost non-existant, but isn't Annie the dative(?) of Anna? Why does it become "Oh, Annie Csillag" in the translation, as if she were suddenly invoking herself endearingly?

claus dijo...

Wonderful article. I knew Kraus' text, but I never knew who exactly he was talking about in "Anne".

Just one correction: You biographical note makes it sound as if Hanisch was arrested after (and because of) publishing his memories. This is not quite correct. The text you quote from was published posthumously.

Hanisch had, however, collaborated with and been interviewed by several journalists. Moreover, he had sold a couple of paintings which he claimed were done by Hitler.

These alleged forgeries were in fact the reason (at least officially) why he was arrested by Austrian (not German) authorities, and not only once, but on two occasions, 1933 and 1936. (On both these occasions, as far as I'm aware, not "on returning" from anywhere else, at least not from the US.)

The circumstances and the date of his death are controversial. There is indeed a source claiming that he died in a concentration camp, another one claiming he was killed shortly after Germany annexed Austria. but there's also some credible evidence that he may have died in police custody shortly after his second arrest (i.e. several weeks before Austria's annexation).

The reliability of his account has also occasionally been put into question, but some details (e.g. names of the other inhabitants of the asylum Hitler and Hanisch lived in) have indeed been verifiable.

Studiolum dijo...

Thanks a lot for the rich addenda! Now I have inserted a caveat under the Hanisch quotation.